Upcoming High Court Appointments: Looking Outside the Square with Professor John Williams

Yesterday on the ABC’s The World Today, Professor John Williams, Dean of the Law School, discussed ‘looking outisde the square’ when it came to the High Court appointments. The Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, must make recommendations on the appointment of two judges to replacing the retiring Justice Gummow (who retires this year), and Justice Heydon (who retires next year). She is currently in the process of receiving nominations for appointment from the Attorneys-General of the States and Territories, the Opposition, and more broadly from the legal community. Professor Williams was joined in the discussion by the Attorney, and Professor Anne Twomey from the University of Sydney.

Professor Williams pointed out that: ‘If you look at who has been appointed there has been predominance of essentially two capital cities and mainly from the bar or from, of recent times, from the Federal Court or from a state Supreme Court.’ There has, in fact, never been an appointment to the High Court from Tasmania or South Australia. The Attorney raised the possibility that in making the next two appointments she would be ‘looking outside the square’, ‘to consider not just leading the barristers and not just people that are in Sydney and Melbourne but to look across the country, to look amongst our leading solicitors, to look amongst academics and law reformers, to look amongst judges that might be currently serving in state courts’. Professor Williams noted that academics may be particularly well-suited to the High Court, with its focus on developing legal principle and clarifying the law.

A full transcript can be accessed here: 

Professor John Williams is the Dean of the Law School, University of Adelaide. He has researched extensively on the High Court and is currently undertaking two Australian Research Council funded grant projects: ‘Judicially Speaking: An Oral History of the High Court of Australia’, with Professors Michael Coper and Fiona Wheeler from the Australian National University, and ‘The History of the High Court’.

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